God 2.0 and Techno Sapien Life

The introduction of ChatGPT in November 2022 created quite a stir, as artificial intelligence can now mimic human intelligence. The ability of a machine to write an essay of complex ideas in response to a human question or create art or music has transformed science fiction into reality. We are now beginning to see that human life and technology are intertwined, like strands of DNA, and it will be impossible to separate these strands in the future, as human life becomes increasingly hybridized with technology. We are simply not prepared for technosapien life. The deep fear and suspicion of artificial intelligence stems in part from lack of boundaries, ethics or guidelines for the use and development of computer technology. Our political, educational and religious systems are still running on old software, and the need for updating these systems is urgent.  For those who pay attention to modern science, we have been learning about computational nature and cybernetics since the last half of the twentieth century, and the new insights on nature are fascinating.

In his book, The Allure of Machinic Life, John Johnston asks if the new biological-electronic hybridization or machinic life is an extension of “nature” itself. He contends, “Our human capacity as toolmakers (homo faber) has also made us the vehicle and means of realization for new forms of machinic life.”[1]

Scientists today are realizing that nature is defined as much by computations and algorithms as it is by physics, chemistry and biology. Christopher Langton, for example, suggests that nature is computational whereby large numbers of simple processors are locally connected.[ii]  Hence “coded” information is embedded in physical reality and is integral to many natural processes. The new science of information is a better description of nature than any fixed biological category. The word information derives from the Latin informare (in + formare) and means “to give form, shape, or character to” something. Etymologically, it is understood to be the formative principle of something, or to imbue that something with a specific character or quality. Information can be generally defined as a code that undergirds “a correspondence between two independent worlds.” The biological world is replete with examples of information. The neurons in the brain, for example, are natural processors that work concurrently and without any centralized, global control. The immune system also operates as a highly evolved complex adaptive system that functions by means of highly distributed computations without any central control structure. Cell signaling works on elaborate pathways of information, as does the genetic code, which establishes a correspondence between DNA (the symbolic genes which store information) and proteins, the basic stuff of earth life. We can also think of animal communication mechanisms, such as the ant pheromone trails, and bird signals as information systems. Some scientists postulate that the physical universe itself is based on the continuous process of information.[iii] Information permeates nature like a green light which can flare up and signal a new direction.

Lynn Margulis, a renowned microbiologist who died in 2011, argued that the blurring of technology and biology isn’t really all that new.  She observed that the shells of clams and snails are a kind of technology dressed in biological clothing.  Chip Walter asks: “Is there really that much difference between the vast skyscrapers we build or the malls in which we shop, even the cars we drive around, and the hull of a seed?  Seeds and clam shells, which are not alive, hold in them a little bit of water and carbon and DNA, ready to replicate when the time is right, yet we don’t distinguish them from the life they hold. Why should it be any different with office buildings, hospitals and space shuttles?  Put another way, we may make a distinction between living things and the tools those things happen to create, but nature does not.”[iv] Nature does not distinguish between the clamshell and the clam, or the first flint knife and the human that made it.  Rather nature is a social construct of multiple meanings so that neither the artifice (the knife) nor the organism (the human) alone is adequate by itself as a cultural root symbol.

The Emergence of Cyborg Life

Evolution is the dynamism of nature to move toward greater wholeness through emergence of complexified life on higher levels of consciousness.  The human person is integral to relational wholeness, emerging out of a long process of biological evolution. The gradual formation of personhood is a formative process of establishing a center of identity based on biological, physical and cultural materials, shaping those materials into an understanding of self in relation to the world. Two criteria that mark the emergence of personhood are coherence and fecundity, that is, struggling to exist amidst diverse materials by making every effort to integrate the forces of existence, and optimizing life by regulating, judging, perceiving, planning and decision-making. What we are as persons is never in isolation but always embedded in the universe from which personhood emerges. Theologian Paul Tillich described the human person as a multidimensional unity of life whereby the inorganic, organic and animal dimensions are integrated with conscious self-awareness, as well as psychological and spiritual dimensions.[v] In other words, to be a person is to engage in the struggle to center this vast array of conditioning material so as to form a coherent self, an operational matrix of integrating processes of regulating, judging, perceiving, learning, remembering, thinking, planning and decision making.[vi]

 Up until the twentieth century biological essentialism defined human personhood. However, the advent of the cyborg in the early 1960s and the realization that biological life can be hybridized disclosed a radically new understanding of nature and personhood. N. Katherine Hayles coined the term “posthuman” to describe a new type of person emerging through the intersection of biologic and machinic [technological] life. The posthuman signifies a new development in personhood, beyond the liberal, autonomous subject of modernity. In post-human, matter is regarded as always already entangled with discourse in the enactment of phenomena. The complex interaction among multiple forces spawns and reconfigures in the new materialist and posthuman thinking. The posthuman does not presume separateness of anything or any pre-existent entities. Rather matter is agentive: “not a fixed property of things” but “generated and generative” so that nature and culture are entwined; they are agential, differentiating and entangled. The posthuman signals a new type of relational person emerging in and through information embeddedness where boundaries undergo continuous construction and reconstruction.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin saw the emergence of a new type of person with computer technology, an evolution of consciousness that led to a new level of cosmic life, what he called the “noosphere” (from the Greek “nous” or mind). The noosphere is the natural culmination of biological evolution, an organic whole, now on the level of thought, destined for some type of superconvergence and unification.[vii] Just as earth once covered itself with a film of interdependent living organisms which we call the biosphere, so humankind’s combined achievements are forming a global network of collective mind.[viii]  The development of computer technology was, in his view, a logical development in the emergent process of evolution in which shared information can enhance unitive life. He held that religion and evolution are two aspects of the same reality; the inner world of consciousness is ultimately what orients the outer world of cosmic evolution. With the rise of technology, Teilhard saw a forward movement of spiritual energy through a maximization of consciousness and a complexification of relationships toward what he called ultrahuman life. However, Teilhard saw technology as helpful to Christogenesis and thus not apart from the larger scope of God in evolution. Without mysticism or contemplation, he thought, technology can become misguided and misused and blindly lead to a disastrous world. He wrote, “technology can extend the outreach of human activity, but it depends on a broader use of human activity, and how humans control psychic, spiritual energy, needs and powers.”[ix] The key to a healthy technosapien life is a renewal of religious consciousness and spiritual energy.

Teilhard’s mysticism is intellectually creative because it is the power of the mind or thought that pushes evolution forward toward greater complexity and unity. One begins with a world that is not understood and comes to know God at the point where experience lights up the fire of knowledge. That is, mysticism sets reason at the center of the mystical. Mysticism is not a matter of contemplating a truth already established but lay in the very act of discovery. That is, the mystic creates a new truth because the knower is a unifier. The mind searches its depths by extending beyond itself. “Each time the mind comprehends something, Teilhard wrote, “it unites the world in a new way.”[x] The engagement of mind and evolution as a unitive process distinguishes his notion of mysticism or contemplation from the ancient metaphysical scheme of emanation and reduction. Instead of participating in Being, being itself is the dynamic process of becoming which, on the human level, is the work of the mind. The mystical act involves continuously probing into the unknown and forming a new synthesis. The mystical knower is every person who searches for unified meaning. The mind includes the emotions, the imagination and the senses and is oriented toward greater consciousness or “en-lightenment.” Teilhard calls us to consider thinking as a spiritual act and speaks of the scientific pursuit of knowledge as “dark adoration.” The mind pushes through the boundaries of the unknown, probes the fields of the psyche, and experiments with the possibilities of what reality can be. In this respect, forming a hypothesis is a supreme spiritual act. Thinking extends the universe.

The human person is vital to the process of evolution: “Far from escaping the evolutionary structures of the world, the mystic refines those structures.”[xi] Spirit is the energy portion of matter and pulls matter in the direction of the mind. Teilhard spoke of religious experience as having evolutionary significance through the centration of the universe. Evolution calls us into a new type of wholistic consciousness, where things are first seen together and then as distinct within this togetherness. Teilhard wrote: “Nothing holds together absolutely except through the Whole, and the Whole itself holds together only through its future fulfillment.”[xii] Wholeness is a function of maximized consciousness. The more one can enter into unitive consciousness, the more one lives by the life of the whole.[xiii]

Teilhard thought that contemplation is necessary to maximize consciousness. Only inner transformation can escape cosmic entropy and centrate energy on higher levels of complexity. The maximization of consciousness is the expansion of the energy of love that both unites and transcends. Love causes things to be what they are and to become more than what they are. Love influences the movement of matter toward spirit. God acts by loving the world, and by loving the world, God emerges through love as God for the world.  Nature is self-making and God-making: as God emerges through evolution, nature finds its own identity in relation to that which is it not, namely, God, and God finds divine identity precisely in and through that which God is not, namely, nature. Hence, neither “nature” nor “God” can exist independently; each is dependent on the other for its own existence. This relational interdependence defines the cosmotheandric whole. God is not outside the realm of complexifying relationships; rather God is actively engaged in the world. God is “godding” the world by becoming what God is not, namely, matter; and matter is actively engaged in becoming what it is not, namely God. This complexifying unity of divinity and humanity in evolution is theogenesis, personalized in the form of Christogenesis.

Teilhard’s religion of the earth, his theogenesis, anticipates a collective unity of minds gathered into new unities of love. When we become conscious of belonging to the whole earth with its tremendous variety of life-forms, when we act from a consciousness of divine presence empowering the whole earth and its rich variety of life, when we engage in this wholemaking process of evolution through living in the good, then we are part of cosmotheandric life oriented toward more life. The contemplative energetic, as Martin Laird described, is not necessarily the monk or the person of centering prayer; rather, the contemplative energetic is the explorer, the discoverer, the artist, the astronomer, the graphic designer, the mother, the widow, the kindergarten teacher, the car mechanic or the geek. Any person who allows the mind to expand into the deeper realms of the psyche and delights in exploring the unknown, touches the hem of God. Such a person is a contemplative energetic—a mystic. Such a person is an “original,” one who lights the fire and creates something new, seeing the old in new ways by testing the possibilities of normative rules. The one who explores reality in its endless depth contemplates God, forms the self, and affects the direction of evolution. The more one becomes individuated as God-person, the more one engages the world through the energies of love. Hence, the contemplative is one in whom the sap of the world flows; the one who embodies a zest for life. As the mystic goes about the world urging all things toward unity, she or he contributes to evolution through a process of mystical convergence, seeing everything bound in a luminous web of love.

Contemplation and Computers

The religion of tomorrow will be one that encourages the mind to grow by connecting with the collective unconscious and contemplating new truths. Religion awakens the self within, tethers the self to its divine ground, and enkindles the divine self to grow into personhood. Rituals that deepen the energies of love and enhance the divine radiance of matter will be part of the religion of tomorrow. Given this new reality of conscious evolution, it is not unusual that the fastest evolver today is computer technology. Since the twentieth century, there has been an urgent need to express the mind on deeper levels of consciousness because we have built a world of complex information. We need ways of making sense of human meaning and purpose in a world of complexity. In smaller worlds of the past, the world was more manageable and axial religions functioned to provide connections to a transcendent God. Today, the new AIxial religion is technology. There is an urgent need to find new modes of conscious expansion whereby new meanings can emerge, as the human is decentered and reinserted into the wider cosmos. If God emerges through an intensity of consciousness that overcomes divisions and fragmentations, a consciousness that unifies, expands and liberates the mind to embrace the whole, then can we start to understand computer technology as integral to theogenesis?

The new collective energy needed to move the world toward greater wholeness must begin with updating divine reality—God 3.0—through a reformatted religious consciousness at the heart of matter. Without religion, evolution is blind and without evolution, religion is dead. What Teilhard realized is that religion is the depth dimension of evolution. If technology is our fastest evolver, then contemplation is fundamental to advancing planetary life toward greater wholeness by increasing thought, driven by the energies of love. In short, technology needs a renewed understanding of contemplation for human evolution to advance toward greater unity.

Notes:

[i] John Johnston, The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008), 12.

[ii]  Christopher Langton (ed.) Artificial Life: The Proceedings of an Interdisciplinary Workshop on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems. (Boston: Addison-Wesley, 1989), 2.

[iii] Whitworth, Brian. 2010, “The Physical Universe as Information Processing.”

[iv]  Chip Walter, “Cyber Sapiens (Oct. 26, 2006). http://www.kurzweilai.net/cyber-sapiens.

[v] Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, volume 3 (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963), 15.

[vi] Philip Hefner, “Imago Dei: The Possibility and Necessity of the Human Person,” in The Human Person in Science and Theology, ed. Niels Henrik Gregersen et al (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 73.

[vii] W. Henry Kenny, A Path Through Teilhard’s Phenomenon (Dayton, OH: Pflaum Press, 1970), 110.

[viii] Michael H. Murray, The Thought of Teilhard de Chardin (New York: Seabury Press, 1966), 20-21.

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6 Comments

  1. Gail Waring on July 23, 2023 at 11:12 pm

    I don’t recall any of Ilia’s blogs touching me as this one has! I was eager to get to what she would write a about about Teilhard’s perspective and her. comments were heart swelling. Thank you, Ilia for your mystic self who creates new truth and is a dark adored. You gift the-world.

  2. Maureen Doyle on July 1, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    Unfortunately, in a way, we have created new laws of nature. We’ve polluted ourselves and almost every living thing with plastic. We’ve poisoned land and water adding poisons during fracking and mining, as well as dumping wastes from industries using toxins. Look what we’ve done to the climate. Unfortunately, all these are now laws of nature.
    So, why can’t we reverse all of this and more? Revitalize lands with crop rotations, gradually outlaw most plastics, make products that last and can be repaired, etc.

  3. Kay Jackson on June 29, 2023 at 6:34 am

    I would argue that it is the ” water, carbon DNA” that produces a “life form”. A being created from the substances of the stars. A diamond, clamshell, quartz or any element of the earth is of life.
    Polyethylene and poly-whatevers? Compounds of synthetic creations? – no.
    We are of Divine nature but we are not God – thank god.

  4. Luis Gutierrez on June 25, 2023 at 1:39 am

    Are you suggesting that “techno sapiens” can eventually become exempt from the laws of nature by way of inventing new laws of nature?

  5. Joe Masterleo on June 24, 2023 at 8:02 am

    In an evolutionary model, a virtual Omega Point implies a virtual Alpha Point, which in turn implies a virtual God who “in-forms” and “in-carnates” (manifests, expresses, and embodies) as all things at all scales holographically, ex-nihilo, from empty space. And then gathers them all back to himself (itself) again via the same vortex, as multiple cards from a deck of cards are individually dispersed (dealt), only to find their way back to the unified whole (deck/dealer) again. Or, as in the hydrological cycle, as countless raindrops seek the ocean, becoming one with it again. A hen gathers her chicks that way, said Jesus, mimicking a universal oneness-separateness choreography everywhere repeated in nature, the heart of the paschal mystery. The universal archetype or symbol for same is the Ouroboros, the snake with its tail in its mouth. Such is a pattern repeated in nature, and a theme abundantly expressed in classic literature, the cardinal aspect of the hero’s journey, including that of Jesus. Being circular (a circuit), the soul’s journey is from descending levels of self-consciousness into matter to the ascent back to Spirit or God-consciousness, from the One back to the One via the many. And thus, THE self-identifier of the Christ, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Now, as Universal Christ, that’s WHO he is. Come up with an integral religio-scientific explanation of the WHAT (energy) of being s-he is, and we can get on with celebrating the marriage supper of the Lamb, Spirit and matter, science and religion. Make haste, as there are greater unifying fish to fry.

  6. George Marsh on June 23, 2023 at 9:49 pm

    I hope to see how such progress takes place, perhaps in my endless “afterlife.” For the present, I pray for the grace to fulfill the two great commands. I trust the divine milieu.

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